Defining dedication: Employee, alumna Reva Johnson Bailey left lasting legacy at UAH

Reva Bailey

As employee, student and alumna, Reva Johnson Bailey played a major role in the 55-year history of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), just as UAH played a continuing role in her life. UAH is a part of The University of Alabama System.

Bailey’s work with students, especially international students, helped build UAH into an institution recognized around the world. The Harvest Dinner, which she first organized in November 1985 as a way to make students feel more at home, became one of the school’s signature traditions.

Bailey, who passed away on Jan. 12, 2023, was the university’s longest serving employee when she retired in 2000. Her association with the university began a decade before UAH officially became UAH in 1969.

She started working as a part-time assistant in the admissions and records office at the University of Alabama Extension Center in Huntsville on Sept. 17, 1959, when she was still Reva Johnson, a senior at S.R. Butler High School. After graduating high school in 1960, she became a full-time employee on June 1. Then she married Ed Bailey on June 22. They had one daughter, DeLinda, and were married 55 years until his death.

Bailey worked only with graduate students during her first few years at the center. Later her job broadened to include undergraduates and international students. Eventually, she also taught part time, Management 301.

While helping other students, Bailey pursued her own degrees at UAH. She received a bachelor’s in English with a minor in history at the university’s first commencement ceremonies in 1968. She went on to earn her master’s degree in administrative science in 1974.

About midway through her UAH career, when she was associate registrar and international student advisor, her co-workers celebrated her quarter century of dedication. In an article about the reception in the June 21, 1985, issue of Postscripts, a newsletter for UAH faculty and staff, she talked about her job and why she had remained at UAH:

“I like the academic atmosphere, the learning,” she was quoted as saying. “Having been a student for so many years, I feel I can relate to students and enjoy working with them.”

She went on to note the variety and excitement of the UAH environment:

“I have seen it go from 1,000 to 6,000 students and from hand-doing every process to the status on the computer we are now. Because the university is ever changing, it doesn’t even seem like the same job.”

Bailey held the position of registrar and international advisor when she retired, but retirement did not end her involvement with UAH. The Harvest Dinner Fund was established to continue that tradition, and she volunteered with the organizing committee for many years. She also worked with the International Student Office for several years and served as special assistant to the provost until 2014.

When the UAH Alumni Association began the Alumni of Achievement Awards in 2002, Bailey was a natural selection for the inaugural class.